The lineup card has been posted for today's Tigers game and it reads that call up Omir Santos -- replacing Miguel Cabrera while he's on his one-day paternity leave -- will catch and Alex Avila will rest.
While this may incite the usual uninformed contingent of Tigers fans who can't believe one of the Tigers' better players would ever need a day off, the rest of the Tigers fans know that Avila's rest is well-deserved, ending a string of 18 consecutive games in which he was behind the plate for every single out of every single one of those innings.
We're led to believe nowadays that catchers are not supposed to catch that many games in a row, especially since one of those games went 14 innings and two others went 10 innings. Also during that stretch, he was truck-sticked on a play at the plate (and held on to the ball) and on a different occasion a foul ball snuck between his chest protector and mask, nailing him in the neck and resulting in a brief injury delay.
Ultimately, none of that phased Avila.
And when a quality defensive catcher like Avila catches that many games in a row, fans usually appreciate that alone and naturally won’t expect too much from him at the plate. Well, Alex Avila gave fans plenty to expect at the plate during his 18-game catching streak.
He hit .393/.513/1.234 with four home runs, six doubles, and 11 runs batted in over that stretch, capping it off last night with a moon shot home run that traveled 408 feet. Those are absurd numbers for a catcher who has caught that many, grueling innings in a row.
It's unprecedented in recent Tigers history, really. Gerald Laird caught 135 games for the Tigers in 2009, but he also hit a frustrating .225/.306/.626. Ivan Rodriguez had some scorching hot hitting months with the Tigers, but he never did it playing as many games in a row like Avila did behind the plate. Rodriguez's 136 games caught in 2006 while hitting .300/.332/.769 is probably the closest thing to Avila's 2011 season. Avila's numbers (.304/.397/.926) through 110 games are better, though, and his 34-percent rate at gunning down base stealers is more than adequate, too.
Put your feet up, Alex Avila. You deserve this off-day.
UPDATE: Avila's streak of 18 games behind the dish is the longest in the majors this season [via Detroit Free Press]:
According to research by Dave Smith of Retrosheet.org, Avila's recent streak of 18 consecutive starts is the longest by a catcher in the major leagues this season.
The second-longest streak (not counting those that included the All-Star break) is 13 by Yadier Molina of the Cardinals. Molina had last year's longest streak by a catcher: 26 consecutive starts.
Molina had at least two streaks of catching 20-plus straight games last year, but he never hit as well as Avila did during his 18-game streak.